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Exclusive-Malaysia may cut palm oil export tax by half amid global supply crisis

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A worker unloads palm oil fruit bunches from a lorry inside a palm oil mill in Bahau, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

By Mei Mei Chu and A. Ananthalakshmi

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) -Malaysia’s commodities ministry has proposed cutting an export tax on palm oil by as much as half to help fill a global edible oil shortage and grow the market share of the world’s second-largest palm oil producer.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said in an interview on Tuesday her ministry has proposed the cut to the finance ministry, which has set up a committee to look into the details, she said.

Malaysia could cut the tax, likely a temporary measure, to 4%-6% from the current 8%, Zuraida said.

A decision could be made as early as June, she said.

Malaysia is looking to boost its share of the edible oil market after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted sunflower oil shipments and Indonesia’s move to ban palm oil exports further tightened global supplies.

“During these times of crisis, probably we can relax a little bit so that more palm oil can be exported,” Zuraida said.

The proposal also asked the Finance Ministry to expedite the tax cut for state-linked palm oil producer FGV Holdings – Malaysia’s largest – and companies with overseas oleochemical production, she said.

Malaysia will as well slow the implementation of its B30 biodiesel mandate, which requires a portion of the nation’s biodiesel to be mixed with 30% of palm oil, to prioritise supply to global and domestic food industries, she said.

“We have to prioritise to give food to the world first,” Zuraida said.

Palm oil – used in everything from cakes to detergent – accounts for nearly 60% of global vegetable oil shipments and the absence of top producer Indonesia has roiled the market.

The benchmark palm oil contract fell as much as 2.3% in the morning session on Tuesday, paring some losses after the Reuters report on a possible cut to the export tax. [POI/]

Zuraida told Reuters importing countries have asked Malaysia to reduce its export taxes.

“They feel it is too high because of the high costs across the supply chain, because of the price of edible oil,” she said.

Crude palm oil futures have surged about 35% so far this year to all-time highs, further worsening global food inflation.

The Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that food prices, which hit a record high in March, could rise by up to 20% as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war, raising the risk of increased malnutrition. [L5N2VE39W]

Zuraida said buyers India, Iran and Bangladesh are proposing to barter agriculture products like rice, wheat, fruits and potatoes for Malaysian palm oil.

Malaysia’s production has been strained for more than two years due to a severe labour crunch following coronavirus border curbs that halted the entry of migrant workers.

With travel curbs now being eased, foreign workers will start arriving in mid-May, Zuraida told Reuters.

Malaysia’s production and exports of palm oil are expected to rise 30% by the end of this year, she said in a separate statement on Tuesday.

Commodities

Oil falls 2.5% as U.S. refiners ramp up output, equities retreat

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows an oil factory of Idemitsu Kosan Co. in Ichihara, east of Tokyo, Japan November 12, 2021, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

By Arathy Somasekhar

HOUSTON (Reuters) -Oil prices fell 2.5% on Wednesday, reversing early gains as traders grew less worried about a supply crunch after government data showed U.S. refiners ramped up output, and as crude futures followed Wall Street lower.

Brent crude settled down $2.82, or 2.5%, at $109.11 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell $2.81, or 2.5%, to $109.59 a barrel.

Both benchmarks gave up early gains of $2-$3 a barrel following a change in risk sentiment as equity markets fell, said UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

Brent remained at an unusual discount to WTI a day after settling below the U.S. benchmark for the first time since May 2020. Traders and analysts cited strong export demand and tightening U.S. crude stockpiles.

U.S. crude inventories fell by 3.4 million barrels last week, government data showed, an unexpected drawdown, as refiners ramped up output in response to tight product inventories and near-record exports that have forced U.S. diesel and gasoline prices to record levels. [EIA/S]

U.S. gasoline prices fell 5%, two days after touching a record high.

Capacity use on both the East Coast and Gulf Coast was above 95%, putting those refineries close to their highest possible running rates.

“While on the face of it, the report was extraordinarily bullish, they (refiners) are racing to put more refined product on the market… there’s obviously a refiners response,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC.

The dollar strengthened and global stocks retreated on concerns about economic growth and rising inflation.

Bearish sentiment also followed reports that the United States is planning to relax sanctions against Venezuela and allow Chevron Corp (NYSE:CVX) to negotiate oil licenses with state producer PDVSA.

“The perception that we could see some more supply coming Venezuela coming into the market, along with the equity markets, it’s causing some profit taking in a much-needed technical correction in the crude,” said Dennis Kissler, senior vice president for trading at BOK Financial.

The European Union’s failure to persuade Hungary to lift its veto on a proposed embargo on Russian oil was adding price pressure, although some diplomats expect agreement on a phased ban at a summit at the end of May.

Ongoing supply concerns remained supportive. Russian crude output in April fell by nearly 9% from the previous month, an internal OPEC+ report showed on Tuesday, as Western sanctions on Moscow curbed exports.

On the demand side, hopes of further lockdown easing in China boosted expectations of a recovery. Authorities allowed 864 of Shanghai’s financial institutions to resume work, sources said, and China has relaxed some COVID test rules for U.S. and other travelers.

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Commodities

U.S. extends application deadline for nuclear power rescue program

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Spent fuel storage is seen at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station near San Clemente, California, U.S., April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Nichola Groom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Energy said on Wednesday it has extended a deadline by 47 days, to July 5, for nuclear power plants to apply for federal funding to keep them running.

The first stage of the program is aimed at saving two plants, one in California and one in Michigan. The Biden administration wants to keep nuclear generators online because the industry generates more than half the country’s carbon-free electricity.

The DOE statement came two days after two industry trade groups, Edison Electric Institute and Nuclear Energy Institute, sent a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm requesting the extension on behalf of their members.

“We received a request to extend the application period, which could keep at-risk reactors online, delivering much needed clean energy to the grid,” DOE’s assistant secretary for nuclear energy, Kathryn Huff, said in the statement.

Under the program, which was launched last month, owners of nuclear reactors that are scheduled to retire can apply for a portion of $6 billion in available funding.

Entergy Corp (NYSE:ETR)’s Palisades plant in Michigan, which may be eligible for the funding, is due to shut down on May 31. The Diablo Canyon facility in California, owned by PG&E (NYSE:PCG) Corp, is scheduled to retire in 2025.

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Commodities

Oil falls 2% as U.S. refiners ramp up output, equities retreat

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows an oil factory of Idemitsu Kosan Co. in Ichihara, east of Tokyo, Japan November 12, 2021, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

By Arathy Somasekhar

HOUSTON (Reuters) -Oil prices reversed course and fell over 2% on Wednesday after government data showed U.S. refiners ramped up output, easing worries of a supply crunch, and as traders took cues from a drop in equities market.

Brent crude was down $2.41 cents, or 2.4%, at $109.52 a barrel at 12:05 a.m. ET (1605 GMT), while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell $2.5 cents, or 2.2%, to $1 09.85 a barrel.

Brent settled below WTI on Tuesday – the first time since May 2020 – and was still unusually trading at a discount due to strong export demand and tightening U.S. crude stockpiles.

U.S. crude inventories fell by 3.4 million barrels last week, government data said, an unexpected drawdown as refiners ramped up output in response to tight product inventories and near-record exports that have forced diesel and gasoline prices to record levels in the United States. [EIA/S]

Capacity use on both the East Coast and Gulf Coast was above 95%, putting those refineries close to their highest possible running rates.

“While on the face of it, the report was extraordinarily bullish, they (refiners) are racing to put more refined product on the market… there’s obviously a refiners response,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC.

Both benchmarks also gave up earlier gains of $2-$3 a barrel following a change in risk sentiment as equity markets fell, said UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

The dollar strengthened and global stocks retreated on Wednesday as concerns about economic growth and rising inflation soured sentiment.

Bearish sentiment also followed reports that the United States is planning to relax sanctions against Venezuela and allow Chevron Corp (NYSE:CVX) to negotiate oil licences with state producer PDVSA.

“The perception that we could see some more supply coming Venezuela coming into the market, along with the equity markets, it’s causing some profit taking in a much needed technical correction in the crude,” Dennis Kissler, senior vice president for trading at BOK Financial said.

The European Union’s failure to persuade Hungary to lift its veto on a proposed embargo on Russian oil was adding price pressure, although some diplomats expect agreement on a phased ban at a summit at the end of May.

Ongoing supply concerns, however, were still supportive. Russian crude output in April fell by nearly 9% from the previous month, an internal OPEC+ report showed on Tuesday, as Western sanctions on Moscow curbed exports.

On the demand side, hopes of further lockdown easing in China have boosted expectations of a recovery. Authorities allowed 864 of Shanghai’s financial institutions to resume work, sources said on Wednesday, and China has relaxed some COVID test rules for U.S. and other travellers.

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